Vice President Joe Biden recently spoke at two of the largest retirement villages in South Florida, Boca Raton’s Century Village and Tamarac’s Kings Point. Biden, of course, was representing Barack Obama’s bid for reelection in the forthcoming presidential election.
The visit came a day after Benjamin Netanyahu’s poignant speech at the United Nations. Netanyahu spoke of the dire threat posed by Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Netanyahu was dismayed by what he considers America’s tepid response to Iran.
The residents of these huge complexes are senior citizens and are predominantly Jewish Democrats. Most were alive during the time of the Holocaust. Some are survivors. Some are the children of survivors.
All are aware that the world misjudged what seemed to be a ranting madman. Adolph Hitler clearly stated what he had planned. He wrote it in his book, Mein Kampf. All are aware of another ranting madman. Iran’s Ahmadinejad has clearly stated that he wants to “wipe Israel off the map.” One would think that the target audience of Bidens’s talk would be hyper-vigilant to the implications. Apparently, though, they had other things on their minds.
The relationship between this American president and the prime minister of Israel has not been a good one. Although Obama has been to many Arab countries since his election four years ago, he has not visited Israel. Last year, Obama suggested that Israel withdraw to the 1967 lines. Just weeks ago he refused Netanyahu’s request for a meeting. Obama had problems with scheduling. He had fund raising events to attend and had promised to make an appearance on “The View.”
One might think the Jews in Biden’s audience would have been focused on Iran’s threat to Israel, and the lack of respect shown by Obama to Netanyahu, and used the opportunity of this visit to express their concern. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be true.
It seems the Jewish voters had other matters on their minds that outweighed the survival of the Jewish state. The Jews in Century Village and Kings Point were, for the most part, focused on Medicare and their assumption that their best bet for benefits lay in the hands of the Democratic Party. A resident was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying what many were thinking: “I’m not voting over Israel. I’m voting over Medicare.”
An American Jewish Committee poll shows 79 percent of Jewish voters in Florida to be disturbed by the events in Iran. Still, 69 percent of Jewish voters, according to the poll, were sticking with Obama and the Democrats.
The Torah teaches, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” The Jewish voters in Florida need to remember the corollary to this teaching – “If I am only for myself, what am I?” Altruistic motives aside, all Jews suffer when Jew hatred is allowed to fester unchecked.
The Jewish world just celebrated the High Holiday season, a time of collective introspection, celebration and identification. Hopefully, Jews will finally use these lessons to unite with the understanding that indeed “All Israel is responsible for one another.”Shelley Benveniste
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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